Meet the Filmmakers: SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY
Interview with director Dehanza RogersDirector Dehanza Rogers Describe your film SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY in one sentence.
SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY is about a young refugee woman who lives in a small Southern town struggling to support not only herself, but the family she left behind in a Kenyan refugee camp.
What's the idea behind the film?
The film was born out a Mother's Day dinner with four generations of women in my family. Needless to say, a lot of arguments and family secrets were divulged in that one night. Family history is always a ripe fertile ground for drama.
What do you expect of Munich? What are you most looking forward to?
This will be my first trip to Europe. I'm definitely looking forward to the festival, but let's be honest, having a beer in a proper German Kneipe. Kneipe, that's the correct word, right? I've been looking forward to that most of my life. Oh and the museums and other cultural stuff.
Scene from SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY
What is your favorite movie and who's your favorite director?
Wow. Loaded question. I'm going to break the rules, because that's who I am, and give you two films and two directors. The two films I come back to often are Gonzalez Iñárritu's "Biutiful" and Ken Loach's "Kes". Iñárritu is masterful at taking large social issues and incorporating them into a narrative - they truly become the narrative. "Biutifull" is a love story about a father and his two children, but it's firmly rooted in larger social themes of systematic oppression, poverty, immigration, people living on the margins - all that and magical realism. It's such a hauntingly beautiful and painful film to experience. It definitely played a large part in the development of SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY. "Kes" by Ken Loach is such a beautifully depressing and hopeful film at the same time. Loach does something amazing with the oppression the protagonist Billy experiences at home and in the school system, and tricks us into believing in hope. It's a horrible trick and when you realize you've been duped, you're devastated not only for Billy, but for yourself for believing. Chris Menges' photography is spot on. My DP, Ragland Williamson, and I spent a lot of time watching and talking about "Kes": the lens choices, the camera movement, the environment as a character. I revisit it often to remind myself the possibilities of filmmaking.
Scene from SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY
Why did you want to become a filmmaker?
There's nothing else that I've ever done that made me feel as complete as an artist or even as a person. Being a storyteller is such a huge responsibility and honor at the same time. There are so many stories about women and people of color that are just ignored by mainstream filmmaking. So often I wonder why these stories are missing and then I remind myself that I can be one of those few that tells these stories. I can't think of a better craft to commit oneself.
Who would you like to work with?
Oh man. That's a long list. As a director I'd love to work with cinematographers like Bradford Young, Adam Arkapaw and Reed Morano. I'm totally into Morano. I've never worked with a female DP and she just blows my mind with the quality of her work and the way she visually translates a story. Young has an absolute grasp on what it means to shoot black skin tones. His lighting choices are spot on and he makes images that are memorable. Arakapaw's work in "True Detective" just blew my mind. The visual choices in that series just destroys and inspires me. I can't even get into my list of actors I'd love to work with, there are just too many. I've been fortunate to work with really collaborative actors, who come to a project with an open mind, prepared and with so much to bring to the table. I'd love to continue finding those types of actors and create meaningful stories.
If you weren't a filmmaker, you'd be…?
I'd be a photographer or an anthropologist. During my undergraduate years everyone knew me as "the girl with the camera" and my undergraduate degree is in Anthropology. I can honestly say I love the research and the interaction with people as much as I love filmmaking.